O Lord, you search me and you know me

If I take the wings of the dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even there your right hand would lead me
–Psalm 139

How much do I have to eradicate sin from my life before God will use me to carry out his eternal purpose?

Can I presume to call on him in faith and trust if I am sinning?

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! for I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
–Isaiah 6

What does God want from me?

Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, an his grace to me has not been ineffective.
–First letter of Paul to the Corinthians 15

It is incumbent upon us to discern our sins and remove them as we can. But we don’t know our real sins, we can never discern it without God’s Love and Grace.

When they had done this, they caught a great multitude of fish and their nets were tearing…. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
–Luke 5

The Lord knows my sins, and he knew them when he made me. Not because we have no free will, but because he knows us the way we know our children. Before my twelve year old explodes in rage at his brother, I know he will do it. I don’t cause it, I don’t want it, I help him to resist this temptation, but I can see when it is past his ability to endure. I forgive him when he comes to his senses.

Already you knew my soul
my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and being molded in the depths of the earth

Sometimes God has to change things in our lives and our souls disordered by sin and evil drastically. This is especially true if we have suffered abuse. He works in secret, in the dark of the earth, shifting and pulling the evil that distorted us, helping us finally to accept his love and Grace, without which we can have nothing.

The Lord will complete what he has done for me: your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.
–Psalm 138

I remain here in faith and prayer. Choosing God, even as I sin.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said, “send me!”
–Isaiah 6


How does this Happen to me?

Song of songs is the story of how the Lord comes to our soul and coaxes us out of the rocks and cliffs we build to protect ourselves.

O my dove in the clefts of rock,

in the secret recesses of the cliff,

Let me see you,

let me hear your voice,

For your voice is sweet,

and you are lovely.

Song of Songs 2

Whether we are high in the hill country of Judea, like Elizabeth in the gospel today, or shut behind the walls of fathers, the Lord will come to us and our soul.

Our job is to come out, to follow him. To trust that we don’t need the structures we have built around our heart of hearts to protect us from the evils of men.

Our soul waits for the Lord,

who is our help and our shield,

For in him our hearts rejoice;

in his holy name we trust.

Psalm 33

I always pray to be like Elizabeth. To be given the gift of recognizing the Lord when he comes to my house to give me help.

Nothing is Impossible

Just a short post today to remember the most important lesson.

Nothing is Impossible with God..

The Lord’s are the earth and it’s fullness:

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24

I don’t know what is coming next and I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know what I want and I don’t know how to achieve it.

Great peace floods out of a place of waiting and surrounds me like a placid lake. A boat will come.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?

Who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24

Fear Not, O Worm Jacob

I am exhausted with my groaning;

every night I drench my pillow with tears;

I bedew my bed with weeping.

My eye wastes away with grief;

Psalm 6

In one of the books of the classic fantasy series The Belgariad, by David Eddings, there’s a scene that always struck me as a writer’s cheat. In it a character is told that a prophecy holds clues to a great danger he goes into the library to pour over them. While he’s there, the voice of the prophecy, which also lives inside his head (don’t ask), says to him, “Hey, you don’t need to read every word, just sort of let your eyes move over them and I’ll I make the relevant passages leap out to you.”

As a teenager reading this I was like “COME ON! ridiculous.” But as an adult with a daily habit of reading the Bible, I have had this experience many times. There are times when unimportant phrases and words in passages read many many times almost become brighter, standing out against a darker wall of text.

And sometimes an entire group of readings are clearly meant for me and my current situation, for hope and comfort.

I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand;

It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Fear not O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel: I will help you, says the Lord.

Isaiah 41

And maybe it will bother some to think of God referring to his people as maggots and worms, but for me, I see this kind of language as an honest reminder of the truth of my own power. Now, to be clear, I don’t have low self-esteem and I value work and personal responsibility and I try to put those values into place and teach them to my children. And they are important. But the experience of my life is that mere goals and striving can accomplish nothing. They are necessary but not sufficient for life. The importance of goals and striving is not to achieve external things, but to develop good character. But you must always remember that the goals you think you are working for are all vanity in the eyes of God.

This lesson might make you hopeless, until you reach a time in life when there is no forward progress, and indeed, not even to a path to walk on. Locked in a paradigm of goal setting and achievement, you will spin your wheels and grow frustrated and myopic. Put recalling the true goals will set you free.

I especially need to remember this when there are no goals to be achieved and my problems and obstacles are things I have no power over. In those times I like to remember there is only continuing to live in faith. In those times Isaiah leaps out to comfort.

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. 

I will open up rivers on the bare heights,

and foutains in the broad valleys;

I will turn the desert into a marshland, 

and the dry ground into springs of water.

I will plant in the desert the cedar,

acacia, myrtle, and olive….

Isaiah 41

Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem

Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds misled them, straggling on the mountains: From mountain to hill they wandered, losing the way to their fold.

Jeremiah 50

Blogging has been light because I lost my prayer book last week. I have ADD/ADHD and I need external cues and tactile prompts to keep my routines going. Without my book it was hard to pray, even if I could look up the same readings on line, it wasn’t the same.

I used to flog myself for these problems. There is a permeable barrier between life struggles that are caused by legitimate external (or medical) factors and struggles that are really the fruit of bad choices. They are all entangled together and, though it’s hard, it is important to disentangle character flaws from real things that are out of your control.

“Their enemies said, “We incur no guilt, Because they sinned against the Lord,”

Jeremiah 50

But you can’t use the presence of sin in yourself or in others as an excuse for cruelty, especially to yourself. The temptation is to see all flaws and struggles and mistakes as sin and to be merciless to ourselves and others in meting out consequences for failure. The tendency is to read the words of Isaiah, picked up by John the Baptist, to “make straight His paths” as a call to do some real serious internal housecleaning. To straighten up and fly right, to be worthy of the Lord’s presence in our lives by acting perfectly from now.

“Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

Isaiah 40

But that’s not it at all. The call for repentance and self-examination goes hand in hand with a call to be merciful, to speak tenderly, to go out and gather the lost sheep. God will lay low the mountains and build up the valleys, God will part the seas and clear the brambles. God will show us the path to walk. Our job in preparing his path is to accept His Mercy.

Prepare for the Coming of Christ into your heart with honesty and ruthless self-examination, yes. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the paths of God are paved with Mercy.